Auburn, Ala. — Gus Malzahn made it clear during his Saturday press conference that next week, the Tigers will begin to narrow their focus on their Week 1 matchup with Clemson. As of Saturday, however, that didn’t include naming a starting quarterback.
The offseason-long competition still lacks a winner with exactly two weeks between Saturday and the Sept. 3 opener.
“I’m not ready to name a starting quarterback yet,” Malzahn said. “There’s still very good competition.”
While Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have expressed their desire to move from a three-headed battle to a two-man race, senior Jeremy Johnson, sophomore Sean White and junior college transfer John Franklin III all remain in contention for the starting job.
Both coaches indicated over the last week that a choice appeared imminent, and that mantra continued during Malzahn’s press conference Saturday despite the non-decision.
“Hopefully we’ll know something in the near future, but not right now,” Malzahn said.
The lack of decision can be interpreted one of two ways. One, none of the three have made enough standout plays to make coaches feel ‘100 percent’ comfortable as they said they want to be before making a final pick. Or two, all three have risen to the occasion, forcing Malzahn and Lashlee to linger over a decision that they said was closer to finality than it appears to actually be.
Malzahn said Saturday he’s siding with the latter.
“It’s too good a competition,” Malzahn said. “We’re going to let those guys compete for a little longer and see what happens.”
In recent media availabilities, Malzahn and Lashlee have pointed to potentially removing one player from the competition before reaching a consensus starter via a one-on-one battle. That hasn’t happened yet, though it’s still Malzahn’s preference, he said.
Whether or not that happens is still up in the air, and the competitive natures of White, Johnson and Franklin have made the race seem even tighter as it approaches game time.
“Like I said last week, that would be the plan. Not quite there yet. It’s not a bad thing once again. It’s really good competition,” Malzahn said. “You can tell the intensity, as it gets a little bit closer, gets different each day, which I think is good. But that would be ideal. Either that or be able to name a starter at some point in the near future. We’ll see how that unfolds.”
It begs the question: Do the coaches even plan on arriving at a decision prior to the opener?
Malzahn didn’t confirm whether or not that would ultimately happen, but he said he believes it’s “a positive” if they’re able to do that.
“That’ll, more than likely, be what we do. That’s what we’ve been shooting for,” Malzahn said. “But, you know, right now it is what it is.”